Tilling United! No, not a new footie team, but the approval given by the audience at last week’s preview of Mapp and Lucia. I half expected to hear the Moonlight Sonata or a little celestial Mozartino issuing forth from Rye’s community centre on Friday evening when the BBC kept its promise to let us have a preview of the first of the three Mapp and Lucia episodes filmed in Rye during the summer. We were spared but, nevertheless, there was an excited buzz from the audience, the “extras” wondering if they would see themselves and those who had lent their homes wondering if they would feature in this episode. Here I have to declare an interest: I live at The Old Vicarage on Church Square, transformed into “Wasters” by the BBC in a miraculously short time.
Director Diarmuid Lawrence and Susie Liggat, producer, were there to introduce the performance. Lawrence disarmingly told the audience that on the previous day there had been a press preview, but he was much more nervous about this first showing to all of us in Rye.
He need not have worried. The applause at the end and all the beaming faces congratulating him instantly allayed those fears. On speaking to a good representation of the audience afterwards I got a clean sweep of positive comments.
I had wondered how locals would find it compared to the classic and much-loved 1980s’ version – but several people commented that they found Anna Chancellor closer to the author Benson’s concept of Lucia. There was appreciation for the whole cast: well-paced comedy with just the perfectly judged pause or lifted eyebrow.
One filmgoer found Rye the star of the show – which might not please Lawrence, but his film certainly showed the location at its very best. The town, the houses, the countryside – some scenes filmed with the aid of a drone – and the beaches looked wonderful. A remark made more than once was that it was a delight to watch a film without endless dark scenes where you can’t make out what’s happening! I risked asking a prominent member of the EF Benson Society for his opinion; with his in-depth knowledge of the stories I was a little anxious. Relax, Lawrence, he really liked it.
We were warned that the sound might be a little indistinct due to the technical differences between television and cinema, but that when broadcast the sound would be fine. Some of the dialogue was tricky to decipher, but the delightfully waspish duels between Miss Mapp and Lucia were mostly crystal clear.
As a true denizen of Tilling I took my (metaphorical) shopping basket around Rye the next day to ask “any news?” and gathered more enthusiastic comments: how enjoyable the episode had been and how brilliant the series will be for the town. Well, Lawrence, it seems Tilling is with you. Roll on the next two episodes – and possibly series two?